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June 12, 2007

Eddie Bridges’ body to be autopsied

P&JP demands officer’s firing

AMERICUS, Ga. — A man at the center of a police beating controversy has died.

Americus Police Chief James Green, said that Eddie Bridges, 55, was taken by EMS Sunday to Sumter Regional Hospital Urgent Care, and then transferred to St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. Bridges died Monday. Green said Bridges was picked up by EMS at a residence on U.S. Highway 280 West.

“I have sympathy for the family, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to further comment,” Green said Monday afternoon.

Sumter County Coroner Greg Hancock said Bridges’ body was to be sent to the State Crime Lab in Atlanta for autopsy. Hancock said Bridges died in the Columbus hospital around lunchtime Monday.

The details of a physical altercation between an Americus police officer and Bridges, a pedestrian, on April 16, in front of the Goodwill store in the Wheatley Plaza will go before a grand jury later this month or in August to determine if the incident warrants a jury trial, District Attorney Cecilia Cooper told the Times-Recorder recently.

Cooper said the behavior of both the officer and pedestrian will be under scrutiny by the grand jury.

Witnesses’ accounts describe Officer Michael Middleton striking Bridges in the eye with significant force after Bridges threw a can of fruit punch at the officer. Due to conflicting accounts, it is not clear how many times Middleton actually struck Bridges.

According to the police chief, paramedics told Middleton at the scene that the eye injury was beyond the scope of Sumter Regional Hospital’s (SRH) temporary facility and Bridges would have to be transferred to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Albany.

Green ordered two of his officers independent of the incident to transport Bridges to Albany. The officers took Bridges by SRH to have the eye checked before they made the trip by patrol car to Albany.

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